Seeking a path with your partner

By Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

This summer my spouse and I did a long road trip from our home on the prairies of Canada through the Rockies and into south-eastern British Columbia that has a wealth of provincial parks to explore. We were thrilled to find the Jewel Lake Provincial Park tucked into a valley between mountains. The campground was rustic but the lake and surroundings were amazing.

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Jewel Lake Provincial Park

We took our bikes along the winding road from the campground to the resort at the other end of the lake. Well, resort may be a strong word for those who imagine all-inclusives in tropical destinations. The Jewel Lake Resort has some campground sites with RV hook-ups, some cabins for rent (including rustic hunter cabins) and offers watercraft rentals (no motors allowed!).

At the resort, we met the owner (who happens to be a retired NHL player – which we only found out later to my husband’s chagrin) who told us some of the history of the lake that at one time was home to a boom town during the early 1900’s. “You need to do some hiking to see some of the old mineshafts,” he told us. He gave us instructions to follow a logging road from

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Mineshaft at Jewel Lake Provincial Park

the resort, up the mountain to a closed shaft. “And there’s another one closer to the campground where you’re staying,” he said. “The trailhead is pretty obvious from the road just at the entrance to the provincial park.”

We did the hike from the resort and enjoyed spectacular views of the lake and did indeed find an old boarded up mineshaft from which we could feel very cold air blowing out cooling us from the hot day. Having explored the first mine, we decided to find our way up to the open shaft on the other side of the valley.

Well, we thought we found the trailhead – there was a small opening where you could tell people or at least animals had traversed in the recent past. But a little way up, we found ourselves thrashing through the forest, not knowing which way the trail went next. My partner thought we could keep going – we weren’t going to get lost, really, because all we needed to do was go down the hill to find the road. But I was leery of continuing and finally talked us into going back to the road. We were disappointed but decided to go a little further up the road and there with a ribbon and a wider entrance, we found a wide, easy to follow trail. It was a short hop up to the mineshaft entrance.

Sometimes when we are learning together about money with partners in life, we don’t find a rhythm right away in terms of the trail we want to take together. There may be obstacles, even emotional blocks, to one way of doing a plan together and it might feel like thrashing through the forest and getting annoyed with one another.

It could be that there isn’t only one right way to make a budget or a money plan together. One of us may need to suggest going back to the road to find another way to get to our destination. That’s okay. What we need to do when we work with a partner, is to be open to listening to each other, remember that we have potentially come from homes where money was dealt with differently and so finding a way together might take some time. Conversation about money is worth it – the views when we work well together can be spectacular. So, keep trying to find what works best for you!

About the Author

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Dori Zerbe Cornelsen is a Gift Planning Consultant with Abundance Canada, encouraging and inviting generous living.  She and her husband Rick live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where lots of generous, warm people live in cold temperatures for 6 months of the year.

Image credit: Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

One For the Road

During June, COMPASS has shared ideas, experiences and stories about how to have fun on a summer budget. Today’s post was adapted from a past edition of Simple Living, a monthly column by Amanda Garcia and published in the Messenger magazine, the denominational magazine for the Church of the Brethren. 

On the Road

On the Road

When I was a little kid and our family minivan trekked from the Midwest to Gramma’s house in Florida, there was no greater road trip treat than chicken nuggets and orange soda. When I got older, it was a cold, chocolaty, coffee beverage with whipped cream. But these days, my idea of a “treat” while traveling looks more like a salad that’s not in a plastic box.

Fresh, healthful food can be a challenge to come by on the road, which makes eating well a challenge. Cost is another factor—when French fries cost 50 cents and an apple costs 3 dollars in an airport terminal, it can be difficult to weigh your choices. Wisely spending money and making nutritious food choices are two very different stewardship practices that need to be considered together while traveling.

In the name of simplicity, savings, and wellness, I’ve experimented with travel-friendly foods that I thought I’d pass along. If you have suggestions to add to this list, please share!

Happy trails.

  1. While driving, stop at roadside farm stands whenever possible (especially when they have homemade apple butter).
  2. Instant oatmeal packets require very little space in suitcases and make a quick, cheap, and nutritious breakfast almost anywhere (including hotels with in-room coffee makers).
  3. Hardboiled eggs are a great way to add protein to a meal on the run, and are especially easy to eat if they are peeled ahead of time.
  4. Slices of carrots, celery, and broccoli are tasty replacements for chips alongside a store-bought sandwich. They also don’t require refrigeration for several hours.
  5. Apples, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits (pineapple, apricots, golden raisins, cranberries, bananas) are full of fiber and all natural sugars, and also require no refrigeration.
  6. Whole grain crackers travel well in a small box or bag and go perfectly with your apple butter.
  7. Almond butter and honey will also top your crackers well, and are good for stirring into oatmeal—just be sure to pack them in your checked luggage if you’re flying.
  8. Dry cereal and granola are filling and great for snacking, as well as breakfast.
  9. It’s always important to drink lots of water while traveling, so if you’re flying, pack an empty bottle and fill it with water after you get through security.
  10. If you’re traveling with a cooler, freeze bottles of water or juice for an efficient way to keep food cold instead of ice. When the liquid melts, drink it!

Amanda GarciaAbout the Author: Amanda Garcia is an Ecumenical Stewardship Center board member and a freelance writer and designer outside of Chicago. Her undergraduate degree is in Communications and Worship Arts, and she is currently pursuing a Masters in Business Administration, where her interests in strategic planning, dynamic leadership, and good financial practices merge with her background and expertise in communications. Amanda and her husband, Dan, are avid gardeners and prioritize healthful cooking and seasonal eating all year long. They are active members of Zion Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Elgin, IL.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image Credit: On the Road

More Tips for Travel on a Budget

COMPASS has shared ideas, experiences and stories during the month of June of how to have fun on a summer budget. Recently, Nicole Brennan shared with us some of her cost-saving tips for travel. Here are some more helpful reminders on how to stay budget conscious and still have fun during your summer travels.

Like I wrote in part one, I relish in deals and money-saving tricks, especially when traveling. Summer can be expensive for travel (since gas prices are higher and it’s the typical tourist season) but with some handy tricks, it shouldn’t put a huge dent in your wallet.

Try to be flexible. When searching for airfare, check prices for three days prior and after your planned travel dates. Flying out on a Saturday morning rather than a Friday night can easily save you $100 a ticket. Create a list of various activities you’d like to try and rank them in importance, knowing you might not visit them all. The worst part about pre-planning is having too rigid of a schedule. Make allowances for weather, emotions, and exhaustion by having a few options available.

Having dinner in Vernazza

Having dinner in Vernazza

Splurge on lunch and save on dinner. One of my more practical tips focuses on meal planning. Dinner is the most expensive meal of the day for Americans. Lunch specials can offer the same great cuisine at a discounted rate. Make a reservation for that Michelin restaurant at 1pm, and eat pub food in the evening. A role reversal can save you a lot when dining out. (Be sure to share your food, too! You can split a few meals, try a bite of everything at the table, and not have to pay extra!)

Savor your surroundings. While on vacation or staycation, plan some nature time. A hike, picnic, or a walk down the boulevard or beach is a cheap way to waste a day and appreciate the beauty around you. Find some quiet time to marvel at God’s wonders before your next activity. (I find journaling during these times particularly eye-opening.)

Visiting the Niagara butterflies

Visiting the Niagara butterflies

Maintain a balance. I try to “highlight” one activity a day to help me balance out my frugality. Whether that is a great meal, a unique excursion, a special treat, or an unusual souvenir, I try to treat myself daily. Just like a diet, if you are constantly in a starvation mode, you are bound to act out. This is a vacation after all- Enjoy it! Allowing yourself a “cheat” every once in a while helps your psychology and your budget in the end. (Be sure to include extra spending money for your “cheats” in the plan. You do have a budget, after all!)

Above all else, remember people (and your experiences) are always more important than things. I learned this proverb at a young age, and incorporate it in my daily philosophy. It is easy while watching your pennies to become too focused on the spreadsheets and not what really matters. It is more important to spend money on the journey, the memories, and your travel companions than extra postcards, magnets, or other frivolous souvenirs. Have your priorities straight when planning and during the vacation and invest in them.

During your travel, be it an exotic destination, entertaining cruise, or a sparkling staycation, take time to enjoy the many blessings God has created: the scenery, the company, and the opportunity you have to travel and relax.

profileAbout the Author, Nicole Brennan: Hello there! I’m passionate about living a stewardly lifestyle, while being adventurous and frugal. I currently live in community with six other 20-somethings in downtown Chicago and work as a Marketing Assistant at Barnabas Foundation, a partner of ESC and COMPASS. In my off hours, you can find me volunteering at a nearby homeless shelter, enjoy live music with friends, or watching reruns of Parks and Rec. Email me at nicoletbrennan@gmail.com or tweet me at @BarnabasFdn.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Tips for Travel, Vacations, or Staycations on a Budget

During June, COMPASS is sharing ideas, experiences and stories for how to have summer fun on a budget. Today we welcome back Nicole Brennan, a marketing assistant with Barnabas Foundation who shares some budget-friendly tips for summer travel, in the first of a two part blog-post series.

School is out, long weekends abound, and the beautiful weather outside your window is beckoning… All signs point to vacation!

Everyone needs a little “TLC” or “R’n’R” (pick your acronym!) during these warm, lazy summer days, but sticking to a budget is still necessary. I enjoy being frugal and thrifty, and carry these values out to my travel plans, be it a vacation or staycation.

Enjoying a ride with my friend Catherine in a gondolla while visiting and experiencing Venice, Italy

Enjoying a ride with my friend Catherine in a gondolla while visiting and experiencing Venice, Italy.

First step’s first- Create a budget! Know who is going, where you will go, what you will do, and the approximate cost. (Of course not knowing where you go is always an exhilarating adventure!) Research and estimate the cost for transportation, meals, activities, souvenirs, and create a budget including a “miscellaneous” category. Stay within your means by finding discounts, planning free or low cost activities, and taking advantage of friends and family. (Why pay a hotel/hostel/campground when you can stay in a guest bedroom/living room/backyard for free?) I also keep my receipts and journal my expenses during the trip. This way, I know where my money is going and am more budget-conscious in the midst of the vacation.

Don’t be caught unaware… Be prepared! Preparation is crucial to budgeting. There’s an old adage in event planning that can be applied to a multitude of situations: “An event can be cheap, fast, or good, but you can only have two.” Since I want my vacation to be cheap and good, I can’t have fast, too. That’s where planning comes in. Spreadsheets are my best friend, and I highly suggest you become acquainted with them. Write out (or include hyperlinks) to various information you might need: sleeping schedules, packing lists, day plans, directions and maps, meal information, and your vacation budget. (On my recent trip to Italy, I had seven different spreadsheets and a “vacation folder” I traveled with containing printed versions.) I suggest planning to happen at least a month before the trip. A benefit to prior preparation- it builds the anticipation!

“Let’s make a deal” should be your catchphrase. If you are traveling, be sure to check airfare and transportation deal sites. Expedia, Booking.com and Airfare Watchdog are great sites for airplane tickets, but Hotwire, TravelZoo, Orbitz, and Travelocity provide deals on airfare, cruises, hotels, activities, etc. Try to check them all for deals and steals. Finding a great bargain can be daunting, but I get excitement from it. If that’s not you, pick your favorite “deal” site (or two) and go with those. If you only check one site, be sure to check Kayak.com because it compares various websites and has a “Confidence meter” that tells you when to buy your tickets. BONUS: Purchase airfare at least a month to two weeks in advance, and on a Tuesday afternoon when flight prices are their lowest.

On the famous Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy

On the famous Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy

Check with the vendor. A frequent tip I share is to check Groupon for deals, and before you make the purchase, call the vendor. Most of the time, they will honor the Groupon price without you having to purchase the Groupon. (Groupon makes their profit by taking a percentage of the purchase price from the seller.) By bypassing Groupon, you are still getting a deal, but you are putting your money in the hands of the local business. The same goes for airfare and transportation. Some budget airlines (Southwest, Spirit, Frontier, etc.) don’t list their flights on other deal sites, so you’ll have to check their websites individually.

Read the policy statements and customer reviews! I get so excited when I find an amazing deal that I sometimes buy it before checking the details. (There is always a reason why that good is on sale… find it out.) Budget airlines might charge you exorbitant fees for baggage. Hotel deals may not be available for weekends. There may be too many people in your party (or not enough) to qualify for the activity deal. Know the limits of the bargain and try to work within them.

In the next blog post, I’ll share some more helpful hints and budget friendly tips!

profileAbout the Author, Nicole Brennan: Hello there! I’m passionate about living a stewardly lifestyle, while being adventurous and frugal. I currently live in community with six other 20-somethings in downtown Chicago and work as a Marketing Assistant at Barnabas Foundation, a partner of ESC and COMPASS. In my off hours, you can find me volunteering at a nearby homeless shelter, enjoy live music with friends, or watching reruns ofParks and Rec. Email me at nicoletbrennan@gmail.com or tweet me at @BarnabasFdn.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.